Mexican envoy on labour mission
Published: Friday, November 02, 2007
Mexico's ambassador to Canada was in British Columbia this week to drum up support for a pilot program to match skilled but unemployed Mexican workers with unfilled positions here.
On Thursday, he was in Vancouver meeting with business officials to talk about information sharing. That followed meetings with provincial officials in Victoria on the same topic.
“Our goal is that Mexicans find jobs in [our] country” and not leave to find work elsewhere, Ambassador Emilio Goicoecha said in an interview on Thursday.
“But in the meantime, if we have the people . . . we've trained the people . . . and Canada needs the people, why not come here instead of going to the [United States] illegally?”
Goicoecha added that Mexico created a million jobs last year and hopes to do the same again this year, but still has about eight million people out of work, many of them skilled technicians with university educations.
Mexico is facing increased criticism in the U.S. over illegal immigration, but Goicoecha said his country's relations with Canada are probably closer than they've ever been.
“Canada has become more of what the U.S. had been in the past,” Goicoecha said, when it comes to being a free, egalitarian and multicultural society.
“They're putting up a wall between Mexico and the U.S.,” he added.
Colin Hansen, provincial minister of economic development, met with Goicoecha and said B.C. sees “great opportunities” to fill some of its labour needs with Mexican workers.
“Just as the United States is putting out the unwelcome mat to skilled workers coming in, we're putting out the welcome mat,” Hansen added.
B.C. has drawn Mexican seasonal guest workers to the local agriculture industry for the past several years, a program that has grown considerably.
Hansen said he and Goicoecha talked about a similar program for B.C.'s hospitality sector. Because the peak tourism season is different in both countries — in the summer for Canada and winter in Mexico — that would be beneficial for both countries.
Skilled Mexican tradespeople could also help in B.C.'s booming construction sector, although Hansen said the two countries have to sort out credentialling for incoming workers so that Canadian employers know what skills are coming with each worker, and so that workers would know that their credentials will be recognized when they arrive.
Goicoecha added that he is visiting other provinces to start the information sharing with governments and businesses about what their needs are and what requirements Mexican workers have to meet to find jobs.
Ideally, the Mexican pilot program will establish a website that lists job prospects and where they are, as well as job requirements so applicants can sort out how qualified they are for the positions before leaving Mexico.
Goicoecha said Canadians can expect to see more from Mexico over the coming year as the country strives to boost its profile in Canada beyond the stereotype of a sunny vacation spot.
Mexico relies on the U.S. for more than 75 per cent of its foreign trade and needs to diversify, Goicoecha added. But Mexico's trade with Canada is increasing faster than it is with the U.S.